No, Google is not launching super-creepy facial recognition, so put those pitchforks down. But it is introducing a new feature to Google+’s photo app, which now makes it a bit easier to quickly tag your friends. It’s called ‘Find My Face’, and while the name leads me to recall scenes in the classic Nic Cage/John Travolta film Face/Off, it’s a feature that plenty of users will find handy.
It’s pretty straightforward: opt into Find My Face, and the next time one of your friends uploads a photo that you’re in, they’ll see your name as a suggested tag. It’s very similar to the semi-automated facial tagging that Facebook launched earlier this year, though with one key difference: unlike Facebook’s feature, which automatically opted users in, Google is asking for explicit permission before it turns it on.
Of course, the fact that the feature is opt-in means that fewer people are going to be using it. Google+ will be presenting a dialog to users the next time they visit any photo on Google+, and I’m guessing that they’ll continue to present similar reminders over the coming months for any users who haven’t chosen either to explicitly opt-in, or indicated that they don’t want to. The option will show up in this settings page.
Google’s history with facial recognition is interesting — Eric Schmidt, who at the time was the company’s CEO, previously disclosed that facial recognition was the only piece of software Google had ever held back, over concerns around privacy and potential for abuse. Because this feature is opt-in, though, and is only available to people who you know (either on Google+, or its other services like GChat), the potential for abuse is minimal.